ce399 | research archive (esoterica)

Da’ath and the Abyss

Posted in Uncategorized by ce399 on 17/06/2010

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick
From: catherine yronwode
Subject: Re: Da’ath and the Abyss
Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 13:37:20 -0700

nigris (333)  wrote:

> a correspondent wrote:

> > …is Da’ath, the theoretical Sepheroth, identical to the concept
> > of the Abyss?

> Da’ath is an anti-sphere, a vacuum into the digestive Hole which
> is the Darkside or Underside of the Tree (shells, kleppah).

Personally, i find that the spheres/shells translation of the Hebrew
words interferes with my understanding. See below for more on th e
fruit/rinds translation as an aid to a more purely Jewish interpretation
of the schema.

> > I have noticed that during the performance of the Qubalistic
> > Cross, Kether is formulated above the head, cooresponding to
> > the Sahasrara chakra and then brought down and to rest at
> > the pineal gland or slightly above and between the eyes.
> > Superficially, this appears to cooresond to Da’ath.

> the Hebrew and Indian metaphysical maps were formulated
> separately from [one] another.

Ain’t THAT the truth!!!

> in one a tree contains ‘spheres’
> sometimes said to reside in a diversity of manifested
> worlds, its uppermost reaches arguably inaccessible to all
> but the most diligent and perfect of adepts. in another all
> bodies contain a system of ‘disks’ typically identified as
> having a kind of physical locality and effect, yet their
> harmonization and uppermost activation are similarly
> supposed to be beyond the level of the vulgar to effect.

Okay, here’s where the correspondences established by 19th century
hermetic scholars like Crowley et al break down — they map the concept
of “spheres” against the concept of “disks” — and in geometry, this is
do-able (three-dimensional versus two dimensional) — but CONCEPTUALLY,
the Hindu idea of whirling disks strung on a central meridian does NOT
map well against the Hebrew concept of the tree of life because not only
are the “spheres” set out in three columns rather than one, they are not
really “spheres” at all, they are metaphorical FRUITS, and the kliphot
are their RINDS or HUSKS. In fact, in modern Hebrew to this day, kliphot
means the rind, as of an orange. So the tree of life really is a TREE,
and the entire metaphor is built around the story in the book of
Genesis, about Adam and Eve eating of the tree of the Knowledge of Good
and Evil and being ejected from paradise before they became gods by also
eating from the Tree of Life (immortality). It’s a very literalistic,
agrarian model of cosmology.

Dispite the attempts of Europeans to put “disks” and “spheres” through
the blending mechanism of geometry, the Jewish Tree of Life and Hindu
Kundalini/Chakra metaphors simply don’t map against each other at all —
the ONLY congruency they share is that as popularly perceived by
Europeans and Americans, both have a vertical orientation that can be
loosely superimposed on a map of the vertical orientation of a standing
human being. But, as nagasiva points out, there are OTHER maps of the
Tree of Life beside the one that Luria adopted (for instance, one in
which the fruits or spheres of the Tree are arrayed on a six-pointed
Star of David, a radialy symetrical, not a vertically-oriented
bilaterally symetrical, layout).

It is simply arbitrary that the vertical Lurianic Tree of Life model was
the one that passed via Pico della Mirandola into Christianized concepts
of what the Kabballah is. Equally arbitrary was the fact that once this
model was fixed in the Christian mind as the “essense of Jewish
mysticism,” it was received and revived by Golden Dawn folks, who, in
common with other British colonialist-exoticizers of their time, sought
also to extract from Hinduism a recognizable “essential” truth.

In other words, when Golden Dawn writers mapped the two systems together
in their attempt to derive a “universal” system of mysticism, they chose
but one of many Jewish Tree of Life diagrams, threw away the primary
TREE-in-Eden metaphor with fruit and rinds, threw away the essentially
contemplative aspects of Jewish Tree of Life mysticism (viewing the
works of G-D), and ignored the Hebrew
search-for-a-return-to-immortality-in-a-garden motif that underlay most
Jewish cosmological ideation. They then forced their severely altered
version of the Tree onto the disks-on-a-string human-energy model model
of the Hindus which was not so much contemplative of G-D as both
inner-power-arounding and life-rejecting, seeking siddhis over
immortality, with the ultimate objective of “liberation” from presumed
rebirth.

> how these might be related is of course easily debated,
> and the vast expression on each will not match up with
> that of the other.

To put it mildly!!! In fact, syncretism on so vast a scale as attempted
by Crowley (remember, he also tried to map the Chinese I Ching against
the same Lurianic Tree of Life model!!!) is a spiritual analogue to the
British colonialism of his time. When continued by his disciples, who,
while not as blatantly racist as Crowley, are still notably
disrespectful of Jewish, Indian, and Chinese cosmologies, these
exercises in faux-universalism devolve into a kind of religious fascism,
attempting to bind all the diverse twigs of human mystical thought to
the one axe-handle of Mr. Crowley, “Our Fearless Leader,” “Il Duce,”
“The Master To Mega Therion.”

> the best which can be brought to bear
> on the subject would be a comparison of concept amongst
> those who considered them coincidentally-referential or
> a survey of all pertinent commentaries from each culture
> and those who steal from them (such as the Hermetic and
> the so-called ‘Thelemic’ which is a part of the Hermetic).

If i understand what nagasiva is saying here, i agree — what we can
best learn about the misguided attempt to map together these two systems
is what was going on in the minds of a small set of 19th and 20th
century British and American map-makers. The Golden Dawnian composite
Jewish-Hindu pseudo-map identifying chakras with sephirot and kliphot is
not representative of the beliefs, cosmological speculations, or
spiritual aims of either of the original cultures that developed these
mystical diagrams.

And when you bring in the Chinese I Ching, as Crowley did — well, the
result is both logically pitiable and immensely revealing of the casual
attitude whereby cultural appropriation was practiced on ALL levels of
life by 19th and 20th century European imperialists and their
fellow-travellers.

A similarly appropriative attempt to create a cross-cultural mystical
map was that undertaken in the early-to-mid 20th century by L. Schwaller
de Lubicz. This guy (French, despite his adopted surname) also looked at
material from a culture not his own in a vertially-oriented, bilaterally
symmetrical way, mapped it against the human body, and derived therefrom
a spurious “universal” system of spiritual rising and advancing for
“candidates.” In his case, the cultural artifact he seized on was rather
a bit larger than a drawing in an old Jewish or Chinese or Indian book
— it was the ancient Egyptian temple of Luxor. Schwaller de Lubicz drew
out an overhead plan of this non-symmetrical ediface, constructed over
thousands of years by dozens of architectural teams; mapped it on the
human male body; and then claimed that the whole pile was congruent with
(you guessed it) the Jewish Tree of Life, the Indian chakra system, and
an entirely fabricated ancient Egyptian priestcraftly method for
advancing candidates through a series of ritualized levels of
development.

I could multiply examples, but there’s no point. Once you’ve understood
the basics of how cultural appropriation fits into the tool chest of
Euro-American “masters” bent on convincing disciples that they have
discovered the “lost keys” to a “universal” truth, the specific whos,
whats, and whens become mere variant stanzas of the same old song. They
are worthy of study not only for their relative degrees of cleverness,
but also insofar as they shed a great deal of light on how the great
mystical carnies of the 19th and 20th centuries have worked in parallel
with the economic and military masters of their era to strip-mine the
unique aspects of the religious cultures of conquered people.

Such cultural strip-mining continues to this day, and now we can find
books by people who are mapping Hindu Tantra Yoga against Native
American religions, the African-Cuban Santeria religion against
neo-Celtic neo-paganism, and (my favourite!), the African-Haitian Vodoun
religion against 15th century Italian tarocchi cards AND Jewish
mysticism, with added Golden Dawnian sprinkles!

> as others have made plain, there is some popular
> speculation that the sephira or sphere of Da’ath is most
> accurately associated with the Throat Chakra, and its
> relation to digestion of the infernal or recycled garbage
> of the Creation in Hebrew mystical cosmogenesis makes
> this quite attractive.

Yada yada yada. This correspondence system — in which da’ath or the
abyss is mapped at the throat chakra — has the advantage of at least
plotting well against an ACTUAL Hindu Saivite religious scripture in
which Siva saves the newly forming universe by drinking the poisonous
byproducts of cosmos-creation by the Devas and Asuras. Siva is seen in
that story as somewhat of a self-sacrificing martyr, in the best Golden
Dawn crypto-Christian tradition, plunging into the abyss (the buttermilk
sea of Hindu creation theory) to ingest the deadly da’ath-like liquid,
which forever burns painfully in his throat, turning it blue as a visual
reminder of both his mastery over death and his perpetual suffering on
behalf of all sentient beings.

> whether this ought also be considered to be equivalent
> to or identical with the Abyss should be a discussion
> with a greater degree of variance. I would suggest that
> its typical nondual character (the contrast made, for
> example, between ‘that which lies below the Abyss’ and
> ‘that above the Abyss’, especially in the Hermetic
> community) makes an association with the Throat Chakra
> somewhat problematic due to its association with the
> very dualistic nature of language given manifestation
> in the throat, and that nonduality might more plainly
> point to the Third Eye or Crown Chakras. there is a
> great deal of room for argument here, as I have said.

Putting the abyss or da’ath at the crown chakra will give you
map-congruency trouble because Kether means “crown” and therefore — to
be linguistically elegant and hence metaphorically persuasive in the
push for “discovering” some sort of “universal” or trans-cultural
“truth” — the “crown chakra” of the Hindus SHOULD map congruently with
“the crown” of the Jews.

So, to be most elegant within the fascist limitations of cross-cultural
map-making, you can put da’ath at the throat chakra — or you can do as
i do, and abandon cross-cultral systems entirely, seeing each
culturally-based system as its own coherent narrative, “with,” as Bob
Dylan said, “no attempt to shovel the glimpse into the ditch of what
each one means.”

> Invoke me under my stars.

C’mere!

> > Love is the law, love under will

And love between the sheets, as well.

cat yronwode

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Subject: Defense of syncretism
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93!

In a message dated 1/14/00 5:03:38 PM Eastern Standard Time,
cat@luckymojo.com writes:

> To put it mildly!!! In fact, syncretism on so vast a scale as attempted
>  by Crowley (remember, he also tried to map the Chinese I Ching against
>  the same Lurianic Tree of Life model!!!) is a spiritual analogue to the
>  British colonialism of his time.

I have a bit of a problem with this characterization, although I am
sympathetic to some of the points you raise. The politics of “appropriation”
are extremely complex and subtle, so I don’t think one can really condemn
syncretism in and of itself because there are ethically indefensible
instances of it. In fact, I think one could make a case for Hinduism and
Judaism (especially Hinduism) being themselves syncretic religions, as few
belief systems fail to evolve over the centuries by incorporating fragments
and structures from other belief systems.

In the case of kabbalah, for instance, it can be shown rather clearly
that most of the methods of literal kabbalah (gematria, notarikon, temurah,
etc.) existed with the Greeks at a much earlier date than they existed with
the Jews and were probably a borrowing. Scholem even admits of the
possibility that the Sepher Yetzirah itself was an appropriation from earlier
Pythagorean tradition.

One could find an equally compelling case for widespread syncretism in
Eastern traditions like Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism, Ba’hai, etc. So
where does this process stop being a natural feature of the evolution of
ideas and begin life as a form of “religious fascism?” Isn’t the attitude
that each tradition must be understood as its own self-contained “reality
map” ultimately rather stultifying?

>  When continued by his disciples, who,
>  while not as blatantly racist as Crowley, are still notably
>  disrespectful of Jewish, Indian, and Chinese cosmologies, these
>  exercises in faux-universalism devolve into a kind of religious fascism,
>  attempting to bind all the diverse twigs of human mystical thought to
>  the one axe-handle of Mr. Crowley, “Our Fearless Leader,” “Il Duce,”
>  “The Master To Mega Therion.”

Do you feel that syncretism is inherently “disrespectful” of the
traditions from which it borrows? In what sense? I’m not going to argue that
Crowley wasn’t full of the same racist attitudes that suffused the rest of
Western society in his time. It’s rather amusing, I think (some might say
“sickening”) to see Crowley simultaneously borrow from and insult the
traditions he uses. I’ve always seen it as one of his more obvious character
flaws and intellectual blind spots. It may be the case that some who have
followed Crowley continue this attitude of disdain for traditions other than
their own (Bersson, for example — did anyone else read that piece of racist
trash “Liber 99?”), but others continue the syncretic process with more
respectful, nuanced, and informed borrowing from other, more ancient sources.

You cite as the most absurd instance of syncretism Crowley’s attempt to
map the I Ching to the Lurianic Tree of Life. I myself have attempted such a
mapping, and have found that my understanding of both systems increased
dramatically. The mathematical symmetries between the two systems alone are
actually rather fascinating. I don’t think I’ve done any harm to the original
system by doing this–one is hard pressed to see how I could do damage to a
tradition over 3000 years old; at any rate, it would be impossible to do more
harm than the Cultural Revolution. I don’t see my syncretic system as
superior to the original, and I don’t subscribe to the idea that I have
discovered the “universal” substrate of the two systems. None of these rather
shortsighted approaches to syncretism are inherent in it.

I think the ultimate value of syncretism depends on its utility to the
people who use the composite systems. In the case of Tibetan Buddhism, it is
obvious to scholars today that several of the central myths of that religion
served the purpose of emphasizing the cultural superiority of Buddhism over
the native shamanistic Bon religion that it replaced and incorporated into
itself. Thus, syncretism was put to the service of “religious fascism.” Yet
it could hardly be denied that many thousands of people find great benefit in
practicing Tibetan Buddhism.

The syncretism of the Golden Dawn and Crowley may have been done
somewhat ignorantly, ham-handedly even, but I am curious as to why you feel
it was a form of fascism? Do you deny that many have found spritual benefit
from the system they advocated? What damage, exactly, has been done to the
traditions from which they borrowed, as a result of their borrowing?

93 93/93
RIKB
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RIKB2@aol.com wrote:

> cat@luckymojo.com writes:

> > syncretism on so vast a scale as attempted
> > by Crowley (remember, he also tried to map the Chinese I Ching
> > against the same Lurianic Tree of Life model!!!) is a spiritual
> > analogue to the British colonialism of his time.

> I have a bit of a problem with this characterization, although I am
> sympathetic to some of the points you raise. The politics of
> “appropriation” are extremely complex and subtle, so I don’t think one
> can really condemn syncretism in and of itself because there are
> ethically indefensible instances of it. In fact, I think one could
> make a case for Hinduism and Judaism (especially Hinduism) being
> themselves syncretic religions, as few belief systems fail to evolve
> over the centuries by incorporating fragments and structures from
> other belief systems.

[several good examples snipped0

I was not trying to identify all instances of mystical or religious
syncretism with cultral appropriation. The examples you gave, which can
be seen to have arisen as the result of cultural boorowing and sharing,
are certainly not whatr i had in mind when i spoke of “appropriation.”

In private email; pursuant to my original post, a correspondent
succintly defined the essential difference between natural syncretism
and cultural appropriation, when he said: “Real cultural fusion, like
the atomic kind, takes heat and pressure and time.”

In other words — and i wish i had been as clear about this as he was —
true cultural syncretism generally arises within and at the periphery of
the affected populaces themselves; it cannot be given out from on high
at the command of an authority figure belonging to neither (or none) of
the affected cultural traditions.

> >  When continued by his disciples, who,
> >  while not as blatantly racist as Crowley, are still notably
> >  disrespectful of Jewish, Indian, and Chinese cosmologies, these
> >  exercises in faux-universalism devolve into a kind of religious
> >  fascism, attempting to bind all the diverse twigs of human mystical
> >  thought to the one axe-handle of Mr. Crowley, “Our Fearless
> >  Leader,” “Il Duce,” “The Master To Mega Therion.”

>  Do you feel that syncretism is inherently “disrespectful” of the
> traditions from which it borrows? In what sense?

Well, no, i do not. What seems disrespectful to me is a one-way flow in
which the cream of various cultural traditions is skimmed off and
presented by a spiritual leader as a “universal” truth while the members
of those cultures who do not accede to this theorized “universality” or
who have no interest in what some outsider thinks of their traditions,
are viewed by the leader as primitives, mental defectives, or
“cavemen”(troglodytes, in Crowley’s terms).

When true cultural fusion occurs, there is not only a flow of ideas —
much as you described in the case of Greek spirriutal-numerical theory
and Jewish mysticism and in the case of Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, Tibetan
animist syntheses — but also a mingling of PEOPLE in TIME and SPACE.
Cultural fusion does not happen in the pages of a book. It may come
about in response to legal, military, judicial, or clerical decree —
but it happens to human populations.

> It’s rather amusing, I think (some might say
> “sickening”) to see Crowley simultaneously borrow from and insult the
> traditions he uses.

If i had to chose, i’d call it more “sickening” than “amusing.”

> I’ve always seen it as one of his more obvious
> character flaws and intellectual blind spots. It may be the case that
> some who have followed Crowley continue this attitude of disdain for
> traditions other than their own (Bersson, for example — did anyone
> else read that piece of racist trash “Liber 99?”),

I am unfamiliar with Bersson — care to expound further?

> but others continue
> the syncretic process with more respectful, nuanced, and informed
> borrowing from other, more ancient sources.

Granted — but, in my opinion, these things take time and the input of
entire populations, not simply the dictum of one respectfully nuanced
scholar. True syncretism is neiother cultural strip-mining, nor is it an
idealized politically correct way to extract and refine cultural
traditions — it’s a matter of real give-and-take in which ideas and
images are discussed and debated from WITHIN, not from without. It
requires listening to what the people of these traidtions themselves are
doing, thinking, and saying — and refraining from defining their
development of centuries of philosophy or cosmology in a few
easy-to-memorize code-words.

> I think the ultimate value of syncretism depends on its utility
> to the people who use the composite systems. In the case of Tibetan
> Buddhism, it is obvious to scholars today that several of the central
> myths of that religion served the purpose of emphasizing the cultural
> superiority of Buddhism over the native shamanistic Bon religion that
> it replaced and incorporated into itself. Thus, syncretism was put to
> the service of “religious fascism.” Yet it could hardly be denied that
> many thousands of people find great benefit in practicing Tibetan
> Buddhism.

Tibetan Bon-Buddhism, like the Hindu-Buddhist synthesis in Thailand and
the Catholic-Ifa synthesis of Cuban Santeria,is the result of exactly
the kind of prolonged heat, pressure, and time to which my correspondent
referred.

> The syncretism of the Golden Dawn and Crowley may have been done
> somewhat ignorantly, ham-handedly even, but I am curious as to why you
> feel it was a form of fascism?

It meets the classic criterion of leader-driven fascism to my mind. It
was imposed from the top down, not from the bottom up, by a leader for
the benefit of his followers, not for the benefit of the masses.

For example, Crowley engaged in no dialohgue with spiritual theorists
WITHIN the cultures whence his ideas were drawn (Jews, Chinese, Hindus).
He simply lifted a few lines of type from one cultural outsider’s book
(e.g. Legge’s inaccurate English I Ching translation) and he mapped them
against a few lines of type in another outsider’s book (Mathers’ English
trnaslation of Von Rosenroth’s (sp?) German translation of a few
kabbalistic texts from the Hebrew), and generated thereby a few lines of
type in a third book (Liber 777), which his followers were to believe
represented a great “universal truth.”

Such faux-universalism differs from true cultural fusion in these
significant ways:
1) it has not led to or resulted from the actual genetic mingling
of human populations (in fact, Crowley rabidly opposed inter-racial
marriages).
2) it has not led to or resulted from the cross-identification of
religious festival days, and
3) it has not led to or resulted from the compiling of regional
deity-attributes into composite national deities

Those three characteristics of true cultural sysnthesis will serve to
distinguish any potentially emerging “world culture” from the
megalomaniac rantings of a would-be Fearless Leader who proclaims the
coming of his very own New Aeon.

> Do you deny that many have found spritual benefit
> from the system they advocated?

Nope.

> What damage, exactly, has been done to
> the traditions from which they borrowed, as a result of their
> borrowing?

I don’t think that i averred that ANY “damage” had been done to any
traditions as a result of such borrowings.

Perhaps the interminable clogging of metaphysical bookstores with
spurious, fluffy “universal synthesis” takes on the kaballa written by
Theosophists, Crowleyites, and New Light Crystal People *might* keep a
few buyers from locating books on the kabbala written by Jews — but one
could hardly consider that to be a “damage” wreaked upon any but the
handful of undiscerning Crowleyites, Theosophists, and New Light Crystal
People who buy those books — and whose critical faculties are already
in need of a lube job.

cat yronwode

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Subject: Re: Defense of syncretism
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93!

In a message dated 1/17/00 9:05:48 PM Eastern Standard Time,
cat@luckymojo.com writes:

What I’m seeing in your analysis is a relatively firm value distinction
between a “natural process” of cultural fusion (which is “good” or at least
outside the bounds of the kind of evaluation process you use with Crowley)
and a synthetic process of syncretism that is mostly academic/intellectual
(which is at best superficial, and at worst oppressive). Do you think this
accurately characterizes your position?

>
>  In private email; pursuant to my original post, a correspondent
>  succintly defined the essential difference between natural syncretism
>  and cultural appropriation, when he said: “Real cultural fusion, like
>  the atomic kind, takes heat and pressure and time.”
>

I think that’s a good summation, although I balk a little at the idea of
there being “real” cultural fusion and…what…false cultural fusion? fake?
I think the kind of thing that Crowley did with 777 is part of the “real”
process of cultural fusion, maybe a stage in which one culture tries to
understand the forms of another in terms of its own — as when the Greeks
referred to the Egyptians calling Hermes “Thoth.” This begins as a conscious
grasping for analogues, creating a gateway through which the Other culture
can begin to enter into true dialogue with the culture one comes from.

When I look in 777 and see that Hanuman is attributed to Mercury, I see
this as a spur to further research and understanding. I know that Crowley
found there to be similarities, but why did he think so? Tracking down these
correspondences has more often expanded my awareness and understanding of
other cultures than restricted it.

>  In other words — and i wish i had been as clear about this as he was —
>  true cultural syncretism generally arises within and at the periphery of
>  the affected populaces themselves; it cannot be given out from on high
>  at the command of an authority figure belonging to neither (or none) of
>  the affected cultural traditions.

I think it depends a lot on attitude and approach. Academically
speaking, structuralism is on the outs these days, but in social sciences
like Anthropology and Sociology, there’s still a lot of searching for
constants or universals in the structuring of human society, folklore,
religion, etc. There has to be a balance, of course, an appreciation for the
unique features of any society and the conditions that shape it. The lack of
an active and dynamic dialogue certainly frustrates this process and allows
error and confusion to creep in, but I don’t think it precludes valid
inferences about homologous features between traditions or cultures.

If Crowley was presenting these correspondences as though “on high,” as
an authority figure that would brook no disagreement, then this is certainly
a fault of his. Anyone who uses such correspondences as though they were holy
writ and inadmissable of change or adjustment is equally blind. But I don’t
think the process of looking for universals or “essences” is invalidated on
the ground that some people misapply the technique.

>
>  >  Do you feel that syncretism is inherently “disrespectful” of the
>  > traditions from which it borrows? In what sense?
>
>  Well, no, i do not. What seems disrespectful to me is a one-way flow in
>  which the cream of various cultural traditions is skimmed off and
>  presented by a spiritual leader as a “universal” truth while the members
>  of those cultures who do not accede to this theorized “universality” or
>  who have no interest in what some outsider thinks of their traditions,
>  are viewed by the leader as primitives, mental defectives, or
>  “cavemen”(troglodytes, in Crowley’s terms).

Certainly, referring to any body of individuals, especially entire
cultural contingents as “troglodytes,” etc., is insulting and ignorant,
regardless of the context. But again, what I see you identifying as being
wrong with analyzing ideas cross-culturally is a fault of attitude and
approach rather than method per se. Someone saying “American Indians believe
X, as do the Japanese” when in reality the situation is much more complex is
a matter of ignorance, possibly of a callous disregard for the truth in
service to some ideological agenda. Someone saying “the Lakota Sioux have a
myth that seems to illustrate X principle, which we also see hints of in Ainu
mythology” shows more sensitivity to context, admits uncertainty, and is
clearly more open to refinement. I see nothing whatsoever wrong with the
latter treatment.

I think that when we look at Crowley’s notes to the correspondences, we
see that his assignments are based primarily on reasoning rather than
authority; at least, I do not get the sense that he is trying to promulgate
the correspondences as the utterances of an infallible pontiff of any kind.
This is borne out by his assigning it to class B, which is reserved for
“works of standard scholarship, enightened and earnest.”

, there is not only a flow of ideas —
>  much as you described in the case of Greek spirriutal-numerical theory
>  and Jewish mysticism and in the case of Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist, Tibetan
>  animist syntheses — but also a mingling of PEOPLE in TIME and SPACE.
>  Cultural fusion does not happen in the pages of a book. It may come
>  about in response to legal, military, judicial, or clerical decree —
>  but it happens to human populations.

True enough, but this is a different matter, I think. We are talking
about a way of coming to terms with the relationship of humans to themselves,
other people, and the Universe at large by examining the belief structures
and perceptual filters of diverse populations through history. In this
search, we find certain universal patterns or repetitive appearances of
concern over the same central issues. It’s a process aimed at identifying the
underlying factors that motivate the production of culture, human behavior
and psychology, etc.

Once these factors are identified and become familiar, the magician
seeks to manipulate these underlying factors to produce a particular personal
transformation or other effect. The syncretic features emerge as a result of
finding certain symbols, myths, etc. more evocative of these core “energies,”
“dynamics,” “forces,” or whatever one wants to call them, than others are. In
this sense, the purpose of syncretism does have more to do with analysis and
synthesis of ideas (considered widely, including shemae, perceptual filters,
etc.) than with merging of human societies.

>  >(Bersson, for example — did anyone
>  > else read that piece of racist trash “Liber 99?”),
>
>  I am unfamiliar with Bersson — care to expound further?

I wish that I had saved the link. Someone had posted looking for the
above named work, saying that they had heard that it might be useful in
incorporating Asian symbolism into ritual magick. I have an interest in the
area, so I went to see it and was rather disgusted. It is little more than a
bigoted rant on the inferiority and uselessness of Taoism.

>  Granted — but, in my opinion, these things take time and the input of
>  entire populations, not simply the dictum of one respectfully nuanced
>  scholar.

I think it depends on the purpose of the exercise. Dialogue is certainly
important, as is considering the source of one’s information. True
appreciation of a culture in toto, as a way of life, may require the
protracted hands-on approach that you advocate, but may not be necessary to
finding what it is the aspirant is after in examining a particular tradition.

>  > The syncretism of the Golden Dawn and Crowley may have been done
>  > somewhat ignorantly, ham-handedly even, but I am curious as to why you
>  > feel it was a form of fascism?
>
>  It meets the classic criterion of leader-driven fascism to my mind. It
>  was imposed from the top down, not from the bottom up, by a leader for
>  the benefit of his followers, not for the benefit of the masses.

But most of the correspondences weren’t even invented by Crowley. This
system, in the relatively fixed form we find it today, is the result of
several hundred years of occult philosophy, encouter of ideas between East
and West, etc. I think it is a much more organic process than you give it
credit for. Crowley did invent some of the tables, but usually presents these
correspondences rather tentatively in the notes. Crowley presented the
correspondences as a summary table, and the danger in this is that the ideas
will become too static and aren’t questioned and tuned to the individual by
individual questing.

>  > What damage, exactly, has been done to
>  > the traditions from which they borrowed, as a result of their
>  > borrowing?
>
>  I don’t think that i averred that ANY “damage” had been done to any
>  traditions as a result of such borrowings.

I admit, after posting my original response, I realized that you weren’t
implying that the original traditions were being damaged. I was responding to
arguments along similar lines to yours that I had heard in the past.

— but one
>  could hardly consider that to be a “damage” wreaked upon any but the
>  handful of undiscerning Crowleyites, Theosophists, and New Light Crystal
>  People who buy those books — and whose critical faculties are already
>  in need of a lube job.

This, I certainly agree with 🙂

93 93/93
RIKB

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Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 10:57:42 -0800 (PST)
From: James Graeb
Subject: Re: Defense of syncretism
To: thelema93-l@hollyfeld.org
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> In a message dated 1/17/00 9:05:48 PM Eastern Standard Time,
> cat@luckymojo.com writes:
>

>      When I look in 777 and see that Hanuman is attributed to Mercury, I see
> this as a spur to further research and understanding. I know that Crowley
> found there to be similarities, but why did he think so? Tracking down these
> correspondences has more often expanded my awareness and understanding of
> other cultures than restricted it.

Indeed it was part of Crowley’s legacy to view 777 as incomplete and as a
tentative work.  He had asked our first Caliph to work towards further
additions to 777, as well as corrections or suggestions. I feel that it
is important that this kind of information get passed on.

>      If Crowley was presenting these correspondences as though “on high,” as
> an authority figure that would brook no disagreement, then this is certainly
> a fault of his. Anyone who uses such correspondences as though they were holy
> writ and inadmissable of change or adjustment is equally blind. But I don’t
> think the process of looking for universals or “essences” is invalidated on
> the ground that some people misapply the technique.

I don’t think he was.   From what I know of Crowley the man, from
discussions with people who knew him, in private, he was always open to
discussion on most topics.  As you suggest, the drawback is is taking
this material as a “Fiat Accompli” and as gospel.  It was designed to
suggest correspondences, not eliminate deeper differences between say,
Apollo and Ra.  Although, by studying one, one can see new material in
another context.

The “correspondence” system only goes so far.  If religion deals with the
most “basic” material and “interpretes” it, then the very system upon
which correspondences are based may need shifting in another context.  So
the I Ching and the Kabbala use different frames of reference and what is
important in the I Ching is its different paradigm for interpreting the
universe, as much as any specific details.

93

Ankh f na Heru
aka James T. Graeb
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